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U of M automated car center picks up major corporate support

Sep 5, 2014

A veritable "who's who" of the global automotive industry has signed on to support the University of Michigan’s new automated vehicle initiative.

A glass panel display shows how vehicles equipped with the new technology will be able to communicate with one another and roadway infrastructure, like traffic signals.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The “Mobility Transformation Center” is a public-private center that will look at how to make automated vehicles commercially viable.  

MTC Director Peter Sweatman says the support of GM, Ford, Verizon, State Farm Insurance and other major corporations will allow the center to do more than they would be able to otherwise. Each company is committing $1 million over the next three years to the project.

“The funds from the leadership circle will really support the research we need to do in the off-road facility in Ann Arbor and across southeastern Michigan,” says Sweatman.

The University of Michigan is constructing a 32-acre “cityscape” to recreate the challenges automated vehicles will face in real urban environments.  

Cars and trucks have been driving around Ann Arbor for years using new technology to communicate with other vehicles and the infrastructure around them.

MTC plans to expand on the two-year deployment of approximately 3,000 connected vehicles to create the world's largest deployment of 9,000 vehicles in Ann Arbor.

The center is also working with the Michigan Department of Transportation and its industrial partners to provide sufficient connected infrastructure in Southeast Michigan to support the deployment of 20,000 connected vehicles. The vehicles will be supported by a connected road network and developmental set of highway corridors.

Developing the vehicle-to-vehicle technology will take time. But Sweatman says that may be an easier hurdle to overcome than teaching people how to use it.

“Especially as we go through various stages of automation,” says Sweatman, “the driver is going to have a different role every time. We want to make sure drivers understand that and can cope with that.”